I am going to ask you to project your minds forward some 30 years and to imagine the sort of world in which you will be living at the same sort of age as your parents now are. You will then be in your middle or late 40s and you will be approaching the main stage of whatever career you choose.
It is impossible to envisage society 30 years ahead. All I do know is that the pace of technological change is so rapid that the progress of the last 30 years (fantastic though it seems in retrospect) may well be comparable to the pace of the snail. Whether we like it or not it will be an age embracing the far-reaching developments of the computer and all this implies; it will be an era of penetration into space with the virtual annihilation of distance as we have always known it; and possibly it may involve even the considerable prolongation of human life. At the same time the power will be in human hands to bring it all to an end by the press of a button.
It is a daunting prospect - and the more so when one reflects that control of this vast power will still lie in the same human hands which ploughed the soil with oxen, or copied manuscripts by hand before printing, and governed small communities like tribes or villages or city-states. The human mind has not significantly changed - we are still "puny mortals", facing problems, the magnitude of which even our fathers would scarcely have dreamed.
There is no possibility of 'opting out' or 'standing on the side-lines' - and I would not want this to be contemplated. My message is not one of gloom but of challenge -side by side with the fears lie the opportunities. If these opportunities are grasped, there is the possibility of a life richer, fuller than man has ever known before. Drudgery will be lessened by the machine and leisure will be increased. It is up to us what we make of it.
But if we are to make good use of our environment two things are essential.
Firstly many more leaders in our society must understand the background of the technological age. One cannot control a force without understanding it any more than one can pilot an aeroplane without knowing something about the instruments. Many of you are probably thinking about your careers and hoping to go to University and wondering what course to take. Should it be 'science or 'arts'? You may have seen comments in papers about 'swing from science' in schools and how difficult it is to get a place in arts or social science courses. Also you may know that 1,700 places were vacant last year over all Universities in Science/Technology. It will be the same this year. And yet the needs of the country for the future are known to be such that the demand for highly trained science/technologists is rising by 80% per year - but the supply by only 4%. The present shortage may well become a famine by the 1970s. I am glad to say that so far more people want to come to the City University than we can take.
There are many reasons for this - the shortage of teachers in the schools, the view that science has lost its "glamour", the fact that University science courses are so intensive that they frighten applicants, that in the schools we specialise too early and so on. All these are valid but do not help to solve the problem that our future standard of living depends on the full training of our best brains.
My second essential is this - the need for a broadly educated and critical mind, rather than a mere reservoir of facts. Our scientists must be more widely educated than ever before - in other words science education must be humanised. We at the City are already aware of this, at least 10% of all our technical courses is devoted to non-technical subjects. We recognise the need to bridge C.P. Snow's two cultures because, as I have already said, although material progress is fantastic in its speed, the human mind remains much as it has always been. And the strength of our society will depend in future just as in the past on the fundamental virtues that have stood test of time. Honesty, goodness, truth are unchanging values: the products of the great minds of the past, whether the poetry of Homer, Vergil or Shakespeare or the art of Michelangelo or Botticelli or the music of Bach or Beethoven or the philosophy of Plato or - above all - the faith and teaching of Christianity - all these are the solid rock and foundation of society on which all the rest must be superimposed. If we have these firmly in mind, we shall control the environment for the well-being of all and from them will come the qualities of service, human kindness and unselfishness to counterbalance the unthinking rigidity of the machine.
Schools and universities are becoming increasingly conscious that science courses must be re-thought to assist to this end. Discussions and conferences are taking place at all levels. The City University is playing its part - Sir Robert Birley, the former Headmaster of Eton, has joined us and is leading research into what a scientist and engineer should be taught. We await the results with intense interest. All this is aiming at one object alone - to ensure that the next generation is the master and not the slave of the machine.
And so I come to my final words of advice to you.
Think carefully about your future and what you intend to do. Ask yourself whether you have some contribution to make to the technological age and, if the answer is 'Yes', think hard how you should make it. A few of you no doubt will make the greatest contribution by becoming scholars under the old definition of ' knowing more and more about less and less'. We need a few of these scholars and they are vital. Far more of you will aim less high academically and for you there must be an open and receptive and critical mind. Your interests must cover your work and your leisure and you must be prepared to think about and question everything that you hear and read.
It is the responsibility of a school to help its pupils to make up their minds and to make it possible for them to have as wide a choice as possible for as long as possible, and - even more - it is the responsibility of the University to re-shape and broaden many of its courses, so that the next generation of citizens may be able to guide the destiny of themselves and their own children, so that there may be founded a society based on true moral and spiritual values, a society that is a worthy successor to the greatest civilisations of the past.
May I add my congratulations to the prizewinners and my acknowledgement of the great successes of the School in the past year and wish all of you every success and happiness in the future.
The City University